Cole Laya wins second consecutive national championship

Over the weekend, the West Liberty University (WLU) Wrestling team embarked on yet another journey that has taken the program to new heights, with this instance being the NCAA Division II National Tournament in St. Louis, Missouri. After a long regular season, WLU has yet another National Champion. Not only this, but the black and gold as a whole was able to produce the best season in program history.

With the success the Hilltoppers saw last season from a Mountain East Conference Championship, a Super Region 3 Championship and two National Champions, many thought that a repeat of this success as a team would be near impossible, but not Danny Irwin, coach of the team. Since coming to West Liberty, Coach Irwin has elevated the WLU program to new heights. Coach Irwin began his career at Bluffton High School during the mid-2000’s in which he led his team to a conference championship. From there, Irwin took the coaching job at Wabash College, a Division III school in Crawfordsville, Ind. After winning an eye-opening three assistant coach of the year awards, he landed his first head coaching job at Wheeling University, formerly known as Wheeling Jesuit University. Whilst at Wheeling, Irwin won the NCAA Division II Coach of the Year, all while coaching a couple National Champions in the process. Now at the Hilltop, Coach Irwin is continuing on his legendary career with this season as proof.

The Hilltoppers were able to secure yet another team MEC Championship while defeating Glenville State University in the process. Not only has the team won back-to-back MEC Championships, but they also saw four individual MEC Champions in Cole Laya, Chase Morgan, Ty McGeary and Francisco Borsellino. Not only this, but WLU was able to secure yet another Super Region 3 Championship.

Fast forward to Nationals where the success kept coming for West Liberty. The weekend proved to be one of the best in season history, as WLU as a team was able to secure a third place finish in the National Tournament, their highest team ranking in over thirty years and the highest ranking in the NCAA Division II era. The highlight of the championship was Cole Laya who battled and secured his second straight National Championship, becoming the first ever Hilltopper to capture back-to-back National Championships. Right behind Laya was Connor Craig, who captured a runner-up finish for the second straight year. Ty McGeary finished third overall, Ty Warner finished fourth and Logan Kemp finished eighth. To cap it all off, the five Hilltoppers all clinched All-American status.

Having success in the National Tournament for the second straight year is thrilling for all Hilltopper fans alike and cement the Hilltoppers as one of the premier NCAA Division II wrestling teams in the country. It will be exciting to see what is next for the black and gold, and with Coach Irwin at the helm, the team does not show any signs of slowing down anytime soon.